In a competitive, compelling game played with twists and turns galore, the Steelers held on for a 38-31 victory on a snow-flecked surface at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field on Sunday.
Le’Veon Bell’s one-yard TD with 1:25 in regulation was the game-winner for Pittsburgh, which stayed alive in the wild-card hunt. The Steelers improved their record to 8-7, while the Packers fell to 7-7-1. A win by the Bears at Philadelphia tonight on “Sunday Night Football” will eliminate Green Bay from NFC North-title contention.
Even the Steelers’ final touchdown wasn’t without a lot of drama. The Packers had no timeouts left, and Bell scored on second down. Conceivably, the Steelers could have run more clock and attempted a chip-shot field goal at or near the end of the game.
Instead, Bell scored, with the Packers understandably showing little interest in stopping him.
The Packers’ strategy worked about as well as they could have hoped. Rookie Micah Hyde broke a 70-yard kickoff return, setting up Green Bay on the Pittsburgh 31. The Packers would march all the way to the Steelers’ one-yard-line.
Then, the Packers made a key error, with right tackle Don Barclay committing a false-start penalty on second-and-goal from the Pittsburgh 1 with 22 seconds left.
Not only did the Packers lose five yards, but there was a 10-second run-off, and the clock started when the ball was put back into play. The Packers didn’t immediately snap the ball, leaving just one play to tie the game, and Matt Flynn’s pass into the endzone fell incomplete.
With the stakes high, both teams showed considerable grit. The Packers fought back from a 31-21 fourth-quarter deficit to even the score at 31 with 7:24 left in the game on a one-yard John Kuhn TD run.
At the two-minute warning with the game tied, the Packers faced a 3rd-and-8 from their 10-yard-line. Flynn, who scrambled to his left on the play, fumbled after being hit by Steelers safety Troy Polamalu, with Steelers end Brett Keisel recovering.
It looked like the Steelers would be held to a field goal, with Green Bay getting the ball back with one time out and about 90 seconds to work. However, on a fourth-and-three field goal try, the Packers’ Nick Perry jumped off-sides, giving Pittsburgh the first down and setting Bell’s game-deciding score.
In victory, the Steelers overcame a big third-quarter setback. They looked to have stopped a Packers red-zone drive with a blocked field goal by Steve McLendon, but Steelers end Ziggy Hood was penalized for batting the ball forward, giving Green Bay a first down. On the next play, Packers running back Eddie Lacy scored a two-yard TD, giving the Packers a 21-17 lead.
However, the Steelers responded well, scoring twice in an 18-second span, with Ben Roethlisberger hitting Matt Spaeth for an 11-yard TD pass and Cortez Allen returning a Flynn interception 40 yards for a score. Now, the Steelers had a 31-21 cushion — and they would need it.
Both teams suffered a number of injuries on Sunday. Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews suffered another injury to his right thumb, while Lacy hurt his ankle, according to coach Mike McCarthy. Steelers wideout Emmanuel Sanders (right knee) and outside linebacker Jason Worilds (abdomen) also suffered injuries, according to the Packers’ Twitter feed.